Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

24 February 2015

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Noon Briefing Guest Today

In a short while, I will be joined by Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, Kyung-wha Kang who will be here to brief you on her trip to the Central African Republic and Cameroon.

**Security Council

This morning, right here, the Security Council adopted a resolution reaffirming its strong commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen.

Council members expressed concern over the ongoing political, security, economic and humanitarian challenges in the country.  They again called on all parties to resolve their differences through dialogue, and reject acts of violence.

Serbia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe also briefed the Council on the Chairmanship’s priorities and the organization’s partnership with the United Nations.  As you know, Mr. Dačić, met the Secretary-General yesterday, and they discussed obviously the situations in Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as the Balkans.

This afternoon, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, and the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, will brief the Council on the situation in South Sudan.

**Yemen

Also on Yemen, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Yemen, Jamal Benomar, continues to facilitate negotiations with all parties, including the Houthis and southern groups.  He is trying to assist the Yemenis to get the transitional process on track, in accordance with the Peace and National Partnership Agreement and other existing transitional agreements endorsed by the UN Security Council.

Mr. Benomar has urged all parties to negotiate in good faith.  And he also remains in close contact with President Hadi and all other Yemeni parties.

**Under-Secretary-General Feltman Travels

And Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman is currently on his way to Myanmar, where he will take part in an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-UN workshop focusing on collaboration in support of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation.

This is Mr. Feltman’s second visit to the country, following last November on the occasion of the ASEAN-UN summit.

Mr. Feltman will then travel to Sri Lanka on Saturday.  There, he plans to meet with senior officials of the Government of Sri Lanka, political parties and civil society groups.

This will be his first visit to Sri Lanka, and he looks forward to discussing with Sri Lankan leaders various issues of mutual concern.

**Iraq

And Nickolay Mladenov, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, today expressed his concern about reports that a substantial number of civilians may have been kidnapped or killed by Daesh in the Baghdadi area of Anbar Province.

He called on the Government of Iraq and the international community to do all it can to liberate the area from Daesh and to alleviate the suffering of the people of Baghdadi district.

The Deputy Special Representative, Lise Grande, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Representative in Iraq, Neill Wright, today visited some of the Iraqi families recently displaced from Baghdadi.  Ms. Grande said afterward that the situation facing these families is very worrying, since they have been under siege for days and are highly vulnerable.  She said that the UN is coordinating closely with the Government to find help for them.

**Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

And earlier today, I was asked about the resignation of Dr. Rajendra Pachauri from the chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

I can tell you that the Secretary-General did receive this morning a letter from Dr. Rajendra Pachauri informing that he was stepping down as IPCC Chair effective immediately.

The Secretary-General thanks Dr. Pachauri for his dedicated leadership of the IPCC.

Over the past 13 years, Dr. Pachauri’s leadership has been critical in increasing the world’s understanding of the true nature of climate change.  He has also played a leading role in mobilizing international action to address one of the defining issues of our time.

The Secretary-General is confident that the IPCC will continue its important work at a time when climate change is affecting more and more people, and threatening the sustainable development of all.

**Ukraine

The note from Ukraine:  the humanitarian community in Ukraine today appealed for more than $300 million to help 3.2 million of the most vulnerable people in the country.

The funds are targeted at lifesaving activities such as distribution of food, health care and shelter.

Neal Walker, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, said that needs have intensified since last month.

The lives and dignity of people in conflict areas are at serious risk, he said, adding that while the community response has been incredible and crucial, the crisis is beyond local capacities.

**Central African Republic

And on the Central African Republic, of which we will hear more from Ms. Kang in a few minutes, UNHCR says that an upsurge in violence has led to new displacement inside the country and across the border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Since January, an estimated 30,000 people have fled their homes and found refuge mainly in the towns of Batangafo, in the north, and in Bambari in the east-central part of the country.

Across the border, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Agency has registered more than 19,000 people from the Central African Republic in the north of Equateur Province since December.  Just since 15 February, less than 10 days ago, some 2,400 refugees have crossed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Most of them are children.

UNHCR and its partners are setting up a new refugee site in the area of Bili, cross from the border.  And it is also organizing emergency assistance, including mobile clinics, and access to potable water.

**Deputy Secretary-General

A note for this afternoon:  Jan Eliasson, the Deputy Secretary-General, will take part in a panel discussion on a transformative approach to transitional justice, co-organized by UN-Women.

He will discuss how transitional justice needs to take into account the opinions, needs and rights of women to address the full range of wrongs experienced by them during conflicts.

**Appointment

And I have an appointment today.  The Secretary-General has appointed Ján Kubiš of Slovakia as his Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

Mr. Kubiš, as you know, succeeds Nickolay Mladenov of Bulgaria, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his dedication and leadership of UNAMI.  Mr. Mladenov served in one of the most challenging duty stations and at a time of important political and security developments in the country.

Mr. Kubiš served as Special Representative and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) from 2012 until 2014.  He brings with him several years of experience in diplomacy, foreign security policy, and international economic relations both at the international level and in his own country.  His full bio is available in my office.

**Honour Roll

And lastly, the honour roll:  our thanks go to Lesotho, Nicaragua and Malta, who have paid their regular budget assessments in full, which brings the total number of fully-paid-up Member States to…?  Anybody…?  [44]  Excellent! Somebody has been keeping track.  You get the gold star for today.  All right.  Joe and then Masood.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [off mic]

Spokesman:  Your microphone, please.  Go ahead.  Don’t touch it.  Tom will turn it on.  Okay.

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on the death sentence that was issued by Saudi Arabia against one of its nationals for the crime of apostasy?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General’s strong opposition to the death penalty has been often stated and it continues to be his position.  Sir?

Question:  Yes.  Will there be an inquiry by the United Nations on this resignation of climate chief who just resigned this morning?

Spokesman:  An inquiry by the United Nations?

Question:  Yeah.  [inaudible] about sexual conduct…

Spokesman:  We’ve seen the press reports of the case, and I understand the case is being investigated by national authorities.  And that’s where it stands.  Mr. Pachauri is, as I’ve just indicated, has resigned effective today.  Abdel Hamid.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  There are reports calling on Benomar that to quit Sana’a and go to Aden, the official now President is in Aden.  And staying in Sana’a that gives the impression that the legitimate… some kind of legitimacy to the de facto authorities in Sana’a.  Why he doesn’t leave Sana’a and go to Aden where the official acceptable recognized President is there?

Spokesman:  I think, you know, the important thing is that Mr. Benomar is shuttling between where the parties are and trying to get them together to find a political solution.  I think that’s more important than to where his office actually sits.  Mr. Lee then Mr. Avni.

Question:  So I wanted to ask first about South Sudan.  There was this very kind of high-profile kidnapping of dozens of children, and what I really wanted to ask you about is, although it was initially said it was unclear who did it, there are now reports that th… that the militia that is responsible for it is basically part of the army of South Sudan.  And I wanted to know what Ellen Løj or the human rights component of UNMISS, what they say about those allegations that seem to be serious?

Spokesman:  We’ve seen increased reports of kidnapping of children and forced enrolment into units, whether it’s the report you stated which our colleagues at UNICEF have flagged for us, or other reports, and I know it’s something that is of concern to all of us here.  It is being looked at both by the Mission and by different departments here.  But it’s obviously a big concern.  We have worked very hard to ensure that children are freed from such activity, and we will continue do so.

Question:  But do you expect the UN system to say who is responsible…?

Spokesman:  I know they’re looking into these — we’ve seen these reports.  We’re looking into them.  Mr. Avni.

Question:  In April, there’s a planned cartoon contest in Tehran on the Holocaust.  Beyond the Secretary-General’s views are well known, does the Secretary-General have any, anything to say about that?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General, I think, as you rightfully mentioned, has often and repeatedly condemned anti-Semitism from whichever quarter, has also condemned Holocaust denial and the denial of a historical fact.  And we’re aware of this exhibit.  And I think at this time, you know, more than ever, we need tolerance.  We need understanding.  And not obscene exhibits that only aim to provoke, degrade or humiliate others or, for that matter, to deny historical truths about tragic events.

Question:  Is it a violation of the General Assembly resolution?

Spokesman:  I think, as you know, the General Assembly passed the resolution which designates the 27th of January every year as Holocaust Remembrance Day.  As part of that programme, there’s educational outreach to put — educational outreach programmes in order to look back, not just to look back at the Holocaust, but to teach future generations about issues of genocide.  And obviously the resolution was adopted unanimously and Member States are expected to abide by it.

Question:  And finally, this is presented as an answer to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.  Is that, does that make sense?

Spokesman:  I don’t know what it’s presented at.  I mean, obviously, the Secretary-General believes in freedom of expression.  But as I said, I think this is a time for tolerance and understanding and not a time for provocation.  Masood?

Question:  Yes, I wanted on this revision of judge Goldstone’s report on Israel’s crime against humanity—

Spokesman:  Sorry?

Question:  Judge Goldstone’s report on Israeli crimes against humanity, which he said now it is considered to be revised by the Human Rights Council.  Do you have any update on that?

Spokesman:  No, my understanding is that the Human Rights Council-led report is, I think, in its final stage if I’m to remember what I actually announced here a few weeks ago.  So they’re working on finalizing the report.

Question:  So report stands as it is, but it will be revised?

Spokesman:  No, it’s a separate — Masood, I think you are mixing two different types of oranges here.  There was the Goldstone report.  And then there was another inquiry led by Professor [William] Schabas, which was mandated by the Human Rights Council.  He—

Question:  No, no—

Spokesman:  You know, I appreciate that you all know more than I do—  [laughter] But I would also appreciate if you didn’t take my pause for an opportunity to interrupt me.  [laughter]  See?  Now you’ve done it.  The head of the panel did resign, but it was clear from what we were told that the work of the panel, the remaining panel members, will continue and they are drafting the report and it is to be made public, I think, in the coming weeks.

Question:  My question, again, is the same.  Is that report going to be revised now that the panel is now reconsidering it?

Spokesman:  No, the work of the — most of the work of the panel had been done by the time the Chairman resigned and they’re putting the final touches together.  It is separate from the Goldstone Report.

Question:  Yes.  On the Central African Republic, is there any [inaudible] of the violence?  If yes, which side?  Can you please give us more detail?

Spokesman:  I would love to give you more detail, but lucky for you, we have Ms. Kang who will be here in a few minutes and she’s just come back from the Central African Republic.  So I will let her handle those questions.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  I wanted to ask about Bangladesh and also this trip to Sri Lanka by Jeffrey Feltman.  On Bangladesh, it seems like the violence is escalating but my question to you is about a statement by current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina where she says a publication, The Star, should be taken… legal action should be taken for publishing a photograph of a poster campaign of protesters in the street.  I’m wondering first if you have any response to that and also if you have anything… I know there was a request to go.  Where do things stand as people seem to be getting disappeared and et cetera?

Spokesman:  I don’t have an update for you on that except obviously to say that we support freedom of expression and the right for newspapers to exist, which is a big part of democracy in any country.  And your question about…?

Question:  Yeah.

Spokesman:  Mr. Feltman is going to Myanmar.

Question:  And then he’s going to Sri Lanka after that.  Didn’t you say that?

Spokesman:  Yes, I did.

Question:  I’m glad I didn’t imagine that.  I want to ask in advance whether he’s going to go only to Colombo or Jaffna where there were pretty big protests over the weekend against the decision to defer that human rights report.  I’m wondering what’s the relationship between his trip and that… the process supposedly in six months to…

Spokesman:  My understanding is that he will only go to Colombo to meet with various people.  We’ll get you, as the meetings happen, we’ll try to get you readouts.

Question:  Can I make a request?  It’s just a request.

Spokesman:  Yes, you may.

Question:  It has to do with Jane Holl Lute and this report about technology and peacekeeping which some call the “drone report” because it proposes drones.  I’m wondering one, can she do a press conference on it?  How much money was spent on the report and why was it released in this kind of quiet or selective way?

Spokesman:  I’ve heard your request and we will pass it on to DPKO.  Yes, ma’am.

Question:  Thank you.  Is there any new news about Libya about Mr. León’s work and Secretary-General’s opinion…?

Spokesman:  No news except to say that it continues, but we [do not] have anything firm to announce at this point.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesman:  We will get our guests, and I shall be right back.

For information media. Not an official record.